Musings + Essays

This Crumbling Circlet.

By: Jen Shoop

Elizabeth visited with me for the first time in awhile a few days ago. Hill had woken me at 5:30, and I had trudged into his nursery to change his diaper, give him his morning bottle, and litter his crib with toys, hopeful that the distractions might afford me a slender pocket of sleep before mini’s inevitable six a.m. wakeup. I slid back into the cool of my sheets and, half straining for Hill’s cries and half slipping into sleep, felt her energy right next to me, a warm and golden kind of glow.

I fumbled for her. I found myself clawing at memories, desperate for something more shaped than the incorporeal aura sitting at my bedside. Nothing materialized.

It has been almost ten years since she passed away, and I find details of her hard to remember these days. I will never forget her smile, her knowing and slightly arch look on the heels of a naughty aside. I recall clearly the way she flicked her keys around her lanyard. The urgent gesture of her hands when engaged in the passionate retelling of a story. The specific sound the turn signal of her Volvo made — so different from any other car I’d ever been in — and the way she’d lean her pretty face toward her wheel to ease out onto Beulah Road in Vienna, VA. I can still remember her easy laugh. Her bright eyes. The way she smiled through her tears.

But I am haunted by the omissions. And angry at the sparse handful of wisp-thin details I still have. It’s a disgraceful posy. Her spirit was an outsized, meadow-wide, shout-it-from-the-mountaintops-and-ring-it-from-the-belfry kind. This crumbling circlet of memories to which I cling does not do her justice.

But what to do? Remember her to myself. Write against the erasure. Strain for that thing she said to me at 11:05 p.m. standing in the dim backyard of that row house in Georgetown with those handsome Hoyas playing beer pong next to us — oh, what was it?! We had laughed, and hugged our arms to our chests, delirious with the intimacy of our inside joke, performing ourselves in front of those boys in the evening heat of a July summer.

And yet I find myself borne into the different heat of a different July summer. By the time I had wiped away my tears the other morning, mini was at my bedside, breathing into my face: “Mama, why are those gummies on your desk? Mama, why are those gummies there?”

I had a split-second to re-center myself — to clutch Elizabeth’s brief dawn visit close — before launching into the day, carrying what remains of her with me right into the daybreak.

P.S. More on my dear friend Elizabeth here and here.

P.P.S. Female friendships and the things that matter.

P.P.P.S. Life is short. Tell her you love her.

Post Scripts.

+My current favorite gifts for girlfriends: this face mask, this Artis brush (cannot wait to write a full review but am ecstatic about this product), Lake Pajamas, Billie wipes, and Audible subscriptions. I love giving people things I’m evangelical about, and I love surprising them out of the blue with them. (More gift ideas here.)

+This incredible liquid eyeliner is only $9 and is currently on a buy one, get one 50% off promotion. Just stocked up! I think this is just as good as Stila’s, which is saying a lot because I love Stila’s.

+Are you a Lilly Pulitzer kind of gal? I have a couple of Lilly dresses I still pull out every single summer — one of which I’ve had since my second year of college! — and two of them are in this exact shape (somehow this dress is marked down to $67?!)

+Two super cute floral dresses marked down to around $100: this blue and this bold rose print. I honestly think the latter must be a discount mistake — it’s considerably more expensive (or sold out) everywhere else on the internet.

+Mini loves her Petit Collage magnetic set.

+These low-profile glass vases are absolutely stunning (and well-priced) for large bouquets of hydrangea, lilac, etc.

+These bee cuff-links would make such an incredible keepsake gift for a wedding anniversary. (30% off with code HBDWOM.)

+Um, I think a lot of us could use this without regular salon treatments.

+When was the last time you wandered somewhere?

+Obsessed with this skirt.

+These handmade linen dresses are absolutely precious.

+Discovered these beautiful candles from my friend Mackenzie — love the sleek packaging and how can I resist peony?!

+This bubble in the red gingham is too sweet!

+There are still a couple of sizes left in this personalizable cashmere sweater — one of my favorite pieces I bought Hill last winter!

+I think Hill needs this airplane-print backpack. Too cute!

+Had to have this. That grosgrain bow in the back!!!

+This dress was just restocked — very popular the last time I posted it and then sold out!

+Welcome to my new readers. So happy you’re here.

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12 thoughts on “This Crumbling Circlet.

  1. Oh Jen… this is so touching. It’s so true, what you said about writing against the erasure. With the loss of a loved one I fear that I might forget those seemingly little, idiosyncratic, special things about that person. It’s such a comfort when, in conversation with family or friends, we remember with fondness the same things about that person, and we know their memory is not erased; but writing seems to make those memories even more powerful.

    1. Thank you, Mia. Completely agree. Writing forces me to really strain to remember the specifics and then there is the relief of knowing that those specifics are forever captured in writing, so even if the memory does not present itself organically in a few years, I can always jostle it into being by re-reading them somewhere else. But talking about people is also a beautiful way to remember and immortalize, because sometimes my friends remember things I’d forgotten, or offer a story I don’t think I’ve ever heard before.


  2. What a gorgeous post! Your writings about Elizabeth are so tender. I can sense from them — and from some of your commenters — that she was a truly special person.

    Great callout about the price of that Faithfull dress at Saks — I’ve had my eye on it this season! Very of-the-moment.


  3. I have never tried the Artist makeup brush but have been using the one by PUR for over a year. It gives an airbrushed look. I especially like the one for under eyes.

    1. Ooh – interesting! Might try the PUR brand for undereyes but I really can’t say enough about that Artis oval 6 brush for tinted moisturizer. Absolutely amazing. I loved it so much I texted “the girls” and insisted they buy. Ha!

  4. Just thinking about Elizabeth brings tears to my eyes. Her smile, like a child running across a field, made you happy. I think of her often, and know she is watching over us, like an angel.

    1. I know — she had the greatest smiling eyes (and the quickest smile, too). Actually, I think her “default face” was a smile — she was joyful. She’s for sure watching over us. I felt her presence so strongly the other day — I mean, it was just *her*! No other way about it. I woke up and she was there.


  5. All of your descriptions perfectly reminded me of Elizabeth and made me well up with tears. Walking to the subway in the peaceful early hours when the city is still waking, I’d always think of her and feel her presence in the beautiful bright blue sky. When Elizabeth and I carpooled to school, she would always make me so annoyed because she was constantly late! But how could I stay mad when she would come scurrying out of her house, her mother following her with her perfect breakfast on a plate, both laden with homemade goods, gifts and balloons for someone’s birthday or treats for a teacher. Elizabeth was one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I’ve ever had the privilege to call a friend and I constantly kick myself for not spending more time with her before she passed. Thank you for the posts on this lovely woman, truly a woman of substance!

    1. Hi Allison – Oh my gosh, I can 100% imagine Elizabeth with Mrs. W behind her and a full plate of breakfast alongside a bag of treats! She was literally always celebrating somebody else, rolling out a huge poster with pictures and inside jokes all over it, etc. She was so joyful.

      I feel the same way — I kick myself, too, for not spending more time with her, especially in her last few years, when I was preoccupied with my young career/studies and friends from college. Not only did I miss out on so many potential amazing times with her, but I somehow felt very guilty about not being there as much as I absolutely could have. But I find so, so much relief and reassurance in knowing that she was the type of friend who would never withdraw or scold or punish for going quiet for awhile. She’d just let you jump back in.


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